What is IVF?
In vitro fertilization, commonly referred to as IVF, is the process by which eggs are removed from the ovaries and fertilized with sperm in a laboratory culture dish, hence “in vitro,” which means “in glass.” The term IVF is now often used to refer to the entire process by which a woman becomes pregnant using Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), including ovarian stimulation, oocyte retrieval, in vitro fertilization, embryo transfer and embryo/oocyte cryopreservation.
Unlike the simpler process of intrauterine insemination (IUI) — the process in which sperm is placed in the uterus and conception happens otherwise naturally — IVF involves additional steps which include medication and medical procedures to extract the egg or eggs from the woman. Once an embryo or embryos form, they are then placed in the uterus. Since its introduction in the U.S. in 1981, IVF and other similar techniques have resulted in more than 200,000 babies.
The Process of IVF Treatment
Step 1: Stimulation
Medication and injections are administered to stimulate your ovaries to develop a greater number of mature eggs for fertilization. Your physician will create a personalized medication schedule that details the necessary fertility drugs and hormone injections you will need. Each woman responds to fertility drugs and hormones different, so one may experience certain side effects while another may not. Your provider will monitor you carefully, help you understand the changes in your body, and keep track of how your follicles are developing.
Step 2: Egg Retrieval and Sperm Collection
The egg retrieval is a minimally invasive procedure that lasts approximately 20-30 minutes. You will be put to sleep by anesthesia for the procedure. Using ultrasound technology, your physician will retrieve your eggs with a fine, hollow needle attached to an ultrasound scan probe. Once the eggs are retrieved, your partner’s fresh sample of semen or the frozen or donated sperm you have selected beforehand is obtained for fertilization. The sperm are washed, and the best-quality sperm extracted will be used to fertilize the eggs.
Step 3: Fertilization and Embryo Transfer
For fertilization to occur, the retrieved eg